Front Page Titles (by Subject) Trenchard: Some Considerations upon the State of our Publick Debts in general, and of the Civil List in particular. Anno 1720. - A Collection of Tracts, vol. I
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Trenchard: Some Considerations upon the State of our Publick Debts in general, and of the Civil List in particular. Anno 1720. - John Trenchard, A Collection of Tracts, vol. I 
A Collection of Tracts. By the Late John Trenchard, Esq; and Thomas Gordon, Esq; The First Volume. (London: F. Cogan, 1751).
Part of: A Collection of Tracts, 2 vols.
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Some Considerations upon the State of our Publick Debts in general, and of the Civil List in particular.
IF by the social Laws of Life we are obliged to aid one another, and to do kind Offices undesired, it will follow that every Opportunity of doing good, is a call to do good; and this Duty must encrease in proportion to the Importance of the Occasion, and consequently the Publick has a Right to our first and best Service.
Armed with this Principle of Love to my Country, I set forth in an untrodden Path, and shall regard no Obstructions or Difficulties I meer in my Way; but will unasked, and I fear unthanked too, offer my Assistance to my Superiors, and endeavour to strengthen their Hands in promoting the Happiness of our Country, and removing its Burthens; which I hope to do, by shewing them a short way to those good Ends.
The Power and Happiness of any Country depends in a great Measure upon a skilful and frugal Management of the Publick Treasure, which my Lord Coke justly calls, Tutela Pacis & firmamentum Belli: By this Conduct chiefly the Seven Provinces, not of more Extent than Yorkshire, have proved their State as considerable as some of the greatest Powers in Europe; and by the neglect of it, we have seen, but few Years since, the once formidable Kingdom of Spain expecting its Fate and the Decision of its Empire from two inconsiderable Armies of Foreigners contending within its own Bowels; and the Spaniards themselves were little more than Spectators.
’Tis with Grief and Indignation I say it, that England too, which seems designed by Nature and Situation to be the Pride and Glory of the World, that has so large a Dominion, so extensive a Trade and immense Revenue, should be sunk and oppressed by Debts and Anticipations, by needless Offices and Sallaries, and, I wish I could say only, as needless Pensions, to such a Degree as to be scarce a Match for the lesser States of Christendom: We too plainly confess the Truth of this by our Manner of carrying on the present War; for though France and the Emperor are our Allies, and we have no Land Armies to maintain upon the Continent, nor expensive Expeditions to the West-Indies, yet we run in Debt every Year greatly to maintain in Effect only a defensive War against a Country, which was of no Weight during the last and former Contests, in the contrary Scale.
Upon this Occasion I cannot but wonder at the Stupidity and mistaken Avarice of too many of my Countrymen, who in a late Reign thought it worth their Time to purchase little seeming Advantages to themselves and Families at the expence of their Country’s Ruin, and were contending with so much eagerness for a narrow Cabbin, when the Ship itself is sinking: ’Twas stupendious to see Men of great Families and greater Estates watching the Smiles and Nods of hungry Courtiers, courting Dependance, and worshipping those who must otherwise have worshipped them, and this often too, for such Considerations as did scarce defray the Charge of bringing themselves into this State of Servitude.
What was then become of the noble Spirit of our illustirous Ancestors, who made the proudest Ministers to tremble, and regarded neither the Smiles or Frowns even of Princes, when they stood between them and their Duty to their Country. In those Days they scorned to sacrifice their own Honour and Liberty, as well as the Publick Good, to a Paultry Pension, which they were able to give; nor did they quit their Family Seats (where they lived with a becoming Splendor, and received a willing Homage from their obliged and grateful Neighbours) to dance Attendance with a White Wand, or perhaps only for the Use of a Box and Dice. O Tempora! O Mores! Who would have expected to have seen grave Patriots transformed into Harlequins, and our haughtiest Pretenders become Gentlemen Ushers?
But it’s still more amazing that Men of vast Fortunes, all depending upon the prudent Administration of the Publick Affairs, and the frugal Management of our Finances, should be so very Indolent, as to give themselves no Thought, but how to form new Funds, and make new Bargains, without once considering how the Old can be supported.
I wish they would now and then put the Case to themselves, That ’tis possible we may have a new War with France, and that the Kingdom will, and ought to be saved, whatever becomes of them and their Interests; That there is no Expedient within the reach of Politicks to prevent a War with a Potent Neighbour, but by being able to make it; That the People are not capable of paying Ten Shillings in the Pound, nor will ever consent to do it; That ’twill soon be impossible to find out new Funds; and then let them reflect what is next to be done.
I wish they would not spend all their Time in the Alley, and in carousing with one another over Champain and Burgundy, but would now and then descend to drink a Cup of Ale in the Company of poor despised and mortgaged Country Gentlemen, where it may be of Use to them to hear other Languages: It’s true their Ears will be offended with the unusual and ungrateful Sounds of Extortion and Bribery, of juggling Bargains, made between former Ministers and Stock-Jobbers, Money then borrowed by the same Persons in one Capacity and lent in another; desperate Debts bought up by Confederacy for trifling Sums, and then made good; Publick Money got into private Hands, and then lent to the Publick again for great Præmiums, and a great Interest, and afterwards squandred away to make room for new Projects: It’s possible too some of these Rusticks may shew a little Uneasiness to see those, who but few Years since would not have kept on their Hats before them, ride now about in Coaches and Six, with pompous Liveries and Attendants, maintained out of their Estates, whilst themselves walk on Foot; and all this while possibly their Country-Understandings, may not find out the least Merit, Virtue, or Publick Services done, by these shining Gallants to countenance such a Distinction.
How unreasonable soever these Suggestions and Discourses are (which perhaps may be said to proceed from Emulation, Envy, and often from Disaffection) yet ’tis certain they come from those who have and always will have a great share in our Legislature, in spight of all that can be done to prevent it.
Those too, who are most depended upon, will, I doubt not, then, like another sort of Vermin, know how to quit a falling House, and speak in a different Strain; They will tell us that nothing is just or unjust, but as it promotes or hinders the Publick Good.
They will tell us it’s barbarous to blow up Houses, and sometimes shut them up with People in them; and yet ’tis often done to prevent the spreading of Fires, and infectious Distempers, and no Law gives Remedy for such Injuries.
We shall be told Towns, Countries, and Provinces are laid waste by those whose Duty ’tis to protect them, when ’tis necessary to oppose or distress a Publick Enemy, without the Imputation of Cruelty or Want of Humanity.
We shall be told Towns besieged have thought it lawful to eat one another, rather than submit to a barbarous Enemy.
They will tell us such Exigencies may happen to a State, that it may not only be lawful, but the Duty of Legislators, to seize Wealth and Treasure wherever they find it; and the want of such a seasonable Resolution, lost Constantinople to the Turks.
God forbid that this Nation should ever be reduced to such a fatal Necessity! My Heart akes, and my Pen trembles when I mention it: I abominate the Thought; and the Intent of this Paper is to prevent it, and to call upon my Countrymen to join Hand and Heart, and to lay aside their little Party Animosities, and unite this once to save themselves and Country; which must be done by curbing those who will otherwise curb us; by contracting the Publick Expences of all Kinds, by cutting off and retrenching Pensions, as well as useless and exorbitant Salaries, (if any such there be) by examining into every Branch of the Publick Revenue, as well as the Publick Expence, and seeing it be brought in carefully, and laid out frugally.
What can be more invidious than for a Nation, staggering under the Weight and Oppression of its Debts, eaten up with Usury, and exhausted with Payments, to have the additional Mortification of seeing private and worthless Men riot in their Calamities, and grow rich whilst they grow Poor; to see the Town every Day glittering with New and Pompous Equipages, whilst they are mortgaging and selling their Estates; to see blazing Meteor, suddenly exhaled out of their Jakes, and their Mud (as in Egypt) warmed into Monsters.
No Man, who has the least regard to Publick or Private Happiness, will complain of, or regret, those Expences which have a visible Tendency to his Country’s Good: Every Man receives again with Interest his Proportion of such Taxes, which he pays with one Hand and receives with the other, and his Share in the general Felicity is his ample Recompence; but then he has a Right to expect they be laid out to the Uses for which they are given, and with the greatest Frugality, and that private Men be not enriched at the Publick Cost, but as they have contributed to the Publick Good.
I hope I may without Offence to any honest Man affirm, that all which I have complained of, was our own Case during the last four Years of the Queen’s Reign. I hope it is otherwise now. I saw then, as I thought, the Nation sinking under a most corrupt and foolish Administration, just ready to be delivered up to its Hereditary and most inveterate Enemy, enervated by a long and tedious War, its Traffick betrayed, its Finances discomposed, its People disaffected, its Clergy corrupted, and every Thing, tending to an universal Ruin and Desolation; when I seemed to hear a Voice from Heaven, which promised us a second Redemption.
If any one had then known that we should be blessed with the best Prince living, who desired nothing of us but to make ourselves happy, and to whose Favour we could no otherwise address ourselves, but by Professions to serve our Country; who shared in all our Feelings, and panted to case them; and in order to it chose his Ministry out of the most remarkable Opposers of the former wicked Administration: If this Person had then told us, that the late vile Miscreants should escape untouched, and carry off their Plunder with Impunity; That little should be attempted to reform the People, and less the Clergy; That nothing considerable should be done to lessen the Publick Burthens; but on the contrary Pensions, Salaries and Fees should encrease immensely; That in four Years time, the National Debts should be encreased by many Millions, without any visible Advantage accruing to the Publick; nay, that the most considerable if not the only Advantage stipulated for us by the Projectors of the last treacherous Peace, should be but once thought of being given up; I say, whoever should have surmised all this, must have passed for a Madman or Traytor.
As for myself, I am thoroughly satisfied that nothing has been wanting on his Majesty’s Part, and I hope those whose Business it is, will convince us by their hearty and vigorous Efforts this present Sessions, that no Lukewarmness, affected Difficulties, or worse Views, but true and real Disappointments, have hindered it on theirs.
If it was proper for me to put my Name to this Paper, I am perswaded all who know me will do me the Justice to own, I was long partial to these Gentlemens Interests, often fought their Battles, and sincerely wish for a fair Occasion to do so again; not by receiving any particular or personal Favours to my self, which I neither expect, want or desire, but in common to my Countrymen and Fellow Subjects.
With Impatience I expect this Satisfaction, and with Pleasure and Transport hear, that the Blessing is near of an honourable and advantageous Peace, and doubt not but my Countrymen will take this Opportunity to compleat their Happiness, and endeavour to extricate the Nation out of all its Difficulties: We are in no Circumstances of engaging in Fairy and Fantastical Wars, or of making fruitless and wanton Expeditions, or indeed any at all, which are not indispensably necessary to our own Preservation.
Every Man ought to contribute his utmost to save himself and Country: Those who have long enjoyed useless Offices, or more useless Pensions ought of their own accord to throw them into the Publick Stock: Such as worthily execute Employments beneficial to their Country, ought to content themselves with moderate Rewards, and accept their own and the Publick Security, as Part of their Recompence. Those whose Fortunes depend more immediately upon the present Establishment, ought not to dinn our Ears with Bargains founded in Watonness, (not to say Corruption) but willingly acquiesce with less Interest to secure the Principal; and I hope the Landed Interest will contribute freely towards paying off those Debts of which every Man owes a Part in Proportion to his Estate; and I could wish too the Parliament would oblige all Officers to bring in a List of their Fees, have them compared with what they were anciently, and settle them for the future in such Manner that every one may know what he is to pay, with the severest Penalties upon those who extort more.
This Conduct will make us great and happy, the Terror of our Enemies and the Refuge of our Friends; but then the Money so raised or saved must be applied to the Discharge of the Public Burthens, and not made Stales and Funds for new Ones; which will be to encrease our Calamity, and make our Condition desperate. I hope every Member of the House of Commons, conscious of his own Abilities, will propose what he conceives conducive to this great End; not think it the Province of particular Men, and so wait for Projects cook’d up by Stock-Jobbers, to serve present Views, and enrich those further, who are too rich already, by making their Country poor.
As for my own Part, since I am at Liberty to speak my Mind where it might be of greater Use, I will do it where and how I can; and ’till I see that I am stopping the Tide with my Thumb, will do my best to save my Prince and Country, nor shall regard whom I please or offend; I will neither be frightned, bribed or provoked out of the Principles I have always professed, and always practis’d.
My fix’d Purpose is, if this Essay meets with a Reception answerable to the Good I intend, to enquire further into the Causes of all our Misfortunes; to probe and search our Wounds to the Core, and to offer at an adequate Remedy, which I shall submit to my Superiors Consideration; but, in this Paper I shall only animadvert upon the present State of the Civil List, and hope to propose a Way to render it most advantageous to His Majesty, and the least burthensome to his People.
I bless God that I can lay my Hand upon my Heart, and safely declare, That I am, ever was, and believe ever shall be, heartily and affectionately attached to His Majesty’s Person and Title, which I sincerely esteem to be the best, if not the only, Right any mortal Man can have to Dominion over his Fellow-Creatures: As upon the most disinterested Observation of his Actions, and the truest Information I can get of his Temper and Inclinations, I am fully convinced he has all those Imperial Qualities, which are necessary, to make a People great and happy; so I cannot but exceedingly lament that our Corruptions, Factions and Follies should render us incapable of making the true Use and Advantage of Virtues uncommon to so high a Station: Like Beneficent Heaven, he bids us be wise, great and happy, and we return the Gift upon his Hands, and long and lust again for our Egyptian Bondage.
Therefore if any Errors or Abuses should creep into the Administration, or the old Ones be not enough reformed, they ought not, nor will be imputable to him; but they alone ought to be answerable, whose Posts and Stations give them admittance to his Royal Ear, and whose Business and Duty it is to acquaint him with his own Affairs, and to represent to him fairly and undisguisedly the Circumstances and Wants of his People; the Neglect of which Duty ought to be Capital.
But to return to the Subject I am to treat upon: The Civil List was not excessive, till the Reign of Charles the 2d, who bringing over with him French Inclinations, a French Religion, and French Luxury, and soon after having also got a French Mistress, and procured the whole Publick Revenue to be settled upon himself for Life, amongst other Instances of his Frugality advanced the Establishment of the Civil List to near Five Hundred and Eighty Thousand Pounds per Ann, which then answered the Purposes of that corrupt and vicious Court, and enabled it to make the first Essays of Pensioning Parliaments. It was something retrenched in King James’s time, though the Queen Regnant, Queen Dowager, and Princess Anne’s Courts were kept out of it.
When King William was settled upon the Throne, it was thought by many, who were most Zealous for fixing him there, that this Excess of the Civil List ought to be remedied, especially considering what an expensive War we were engaged in. They thought it very strange that he, who had received three Crowns from the Peoples Gift, should contribute nothing, nor abate the least from the Demands of the two former Kings to maintain a War, entered into to support him in the Throne he sate upon; but this was esteemed by others of more Breeding uncourtly Language, ungrateful to a Benefactor, who condescended to wear the Crown only for our Sakes; and so these unfashionable People were deemed Male-contents, Whimsical, Grumblers, never satisfied with any Government, and not much better than Jacobites, and at last were forced to acquiesce, and consent that as the King deserved more than any of his Predecessors, so his Civil List ought at least to be as great as any of theirs; and the general Opinion was that Six Hundred Thousand Pounds per Annum, bein gan even Sum, should be given for that Purpose.
But even this was not thought enough for some Gentlemens Purposes, who by a new Feat of Legerdemain, carried on by the Assistance of an ancient and a dexterous Member, (who knew how to serve himself and the Court by seeming to oppose it, which I thank God is not the Providence of any Persons now) obtained a Revenue of Seven Hundred Thousand Pounds per Annum, to be granted to the King for Life, and to be first raised out of certain Funds, which produced a larger Sum, applicable afterwards to such Uses as the Parliament should appoint; which had this further Inconvenience also attending it, that the Courtiers not being to receive any Advantage by the Surplus were nor likely to be very solicitous what become of it, provided the Fund given produced enough to answer their own Demands, and therefore might possibly think themselves at Liberty to gratify their Friends and Creatures, by charging it with needless Officers, and indulging them afterwards in making their Fortunes as they could.
This Proceeding gave a general Offence, nor did the Parliament long acquiesce under it; but as soon as they had a little manumitted themselves from the Influence of the Conjurur’s Wand, determined to resume an Hundred Thousand Pounds per Ann. of what they had unwarily given, and not suffer the Courtiers to riot in Luxury and Corruption, whilst they were exhausting their very Vitals, and sinking under the Load of their Debts and Payments. This Resolution was not to be withstood; so the Court Managers were forced to consent that Three Thousand Seven Hundred Pounds per Week should be first taken out of the appropriated Funds and applied to other Uses, and the Remainder, which was valued at about Six Hundred Thousand Pounds per Ann. was given to the Crown, with Expectation that the Court when it was their own would manage it better.
This was the Circumstance of the Civil List in King William’s time, and such it was continued to Queen Anne, who gave in one Year a Hundred Thousand Pounds to the Use of the War, maintained her own and Prince George’s Courts out of it, gave Fifty Thousand Pounds per Ann. to the Building of Blenheim, as much more as ’tis said somewhere else, and the Managers are foully belied too, if they did not find out extraordinary Recompences for extraordinary Services; nor do I remember to have ever heard of any Defect in the Civil List, till an ignominious Peace was to be ignominiously defended, and an English Parliament was to be chosen to bring about a French Revolution.
In order to these worthy Ends, we were told, that the Funds given for the Civil List had near produced the Sum intended; That the Queen had given the first Fruits to the pious Clergy; not without proper Hints besides, that the Fifty Thousand Pounds per Ann. had been punctually paid; by which Means the Civil List was much in Arrears, and that the Sum of Five Hundred Thousand Pounds was wanting, without which God knows what would became of the Ch———h and the P———r.
All honest Men then saw and lamented what might be the Consequence of such an Attempt: They dreaded a Precedent which might and probably would be followed by every succeeding Ministry; and then what must become of the Kingdom, when the abusing of an old Trust is a sufficient Pretence for asking a new one? Prodigailty is to be furnished with new Means of Profusion, and embezelling the Publick Treasure is a Reason for a Parliament to give more, to answer Purposes which they never approved, and perhaps will never know.
If the Nation shall encourage the Exceeding of that Income by paying them off, the Royal Revenue, and consequently the Royal Authority, will have no Bounds but will run behind again, in order to be cleared again, and so create a new Circulation of Wants and Supplies, as if there were enough already, and we must ever hereafter give what any aew Ministry shall think fit to ask. A new and dangerous Method of squeezing the Kingdom, when it had given almost its all before!
But so it was resolved, for an extraordinary Occasion required extraordinary Measures, which were however happily disappointed by his Majesty’s coming to the Crown; nor can it be wondered if in the first Transports of a People just rescued from Misery and Destruction, they thought nothing too much for their great Benefactor.
Notwithstanding our heavy Load of Debts, they gave him a Civil List greater than any of his Predecessors, as it was not charged with their Burthens, nor liable to any Deficiencies, as King William’s and the Queen’s were.
King Charles the 2d maintained the Queen’s Court, and his numerous Descendants, out of his. King James maintained his Queen’s Court, the Queen Dowager’s, and the Princess Anne’s Family. King William maintained also the Princess Anne, the Queen Dowager, and the Duke of Gloucester; and Queen Anne, all which is abovementioned; whereas a separate Revenue of an Hundred Thousand Pounds per Ann. is granted to the Prince for the Appenage of himself and Family.
Nor was the least regard had to his Majesty’s other Dominions, which might reasonably contribute to the Support of their King’s Court, who honours them so often with his Presence, and leaves the mediate Heir to his Crown amongst them.
As I heartily rejoice at this Zeal and Affection shewn to his Person and Government, so the Intent of this Paper is to make it as useful and advantageous to him, as it is chargeable to his Subjects, which will take off all Pretences of new Demands in future Reigns, (for we are sure of no such in this) and though they will be then made in the Name of the Crown, yet may be afterwards squandred to fatten Horse leeches by sucking the Hearts Blood of the People.
As the Crown never was, so it’s ridiculous to believe it ever will be better, for such irregular Supplies: The Demands upon it will rise in exact proportion to their fancied Riches, and the Weakness of the Ministry; Every one will think he has a right to share in the Profit, who has had a share in the Guilt, and endless Importunities must distract the Court, as well as exhaust the Nation. Whereas a general good Husbandry will soon put an end to all wild and impertinent Solicitations: No one will pretend to what no one has: Worthless Men will not spend their Substance, in hopes to repair themselves out of the Kingdom’s Ruins; bur the Direction of the publick Affairs will fall naturally into Hands, who have Interest but in the publick Happiness.
It must have been an unspeakable Dissatisfaction to a Prince so famous thro’ the World for the Government of his Family, for his Frugality in laying out his Revenues, and known Oeconomy of all his Affairs in his other Dominions, to see People here so overwhelmed with Vice and Faction, with Corruption and Prodigality, that no Incomes will satisfy them, no Gratification oblige them, nor no Principles influence them. How must he have been surprised when he first heard of a Custom in the latter Part of the Queen’s Reign, of hiring Men to be preferr’d, and of giving great Sums to them to accept of great Places; as if there was any Office in England could be filled but with one Man, and that no other Person could be found who would emhrace it upon the Motives of its native Honour and Advantage; Without doubt he made the Reflection, that such Officer was to abuse and pervert the Authority of his Place, to do Work which he knew was unjustifiable and unsase, and therefore when he ventured his Head he was to be considered and rewarded for his Boldness and his Danger.
How much must he have been amazed when he was told of another Practice then, of giving great Pensions to Men of great Fortunes when they were dismiss’d from their Employments, and often for Crimes; That one was to be rewarded for being turn’d out of a profitable Office, and another for accepting it, and that the Nation was to pay them both. Certainly he ask’d, if they deserved their Employments, why were they turned out of them; and if not, why must they have an Equivalent? But the Mystery was unravelled when he was informed, that dirty Work had been, and was still to be done, and that no one who had once been in the Secret, was ever to be disobliged; That their Successors had no Quarrel to their Conduct, but to their Places, and were resolved to proceed in the same Methods, and so were providing only for themselves and their own Security in Reversion.
How must he have lamented the poor Queen’s Unhappiness to be served by so weak and corrupt a Ministry, that though her People, without regard to the heavy Pressures they lay under, had given her a most ample and truly Royal Revenue to support the Splendor and Magnificence of her Court; yet like Æneas’s Banquet it was almost devoured, or snatch’d away by the polluted Claws of obscure and ravenous Harpies; so that what remained was scarce enough to maintain her Table and private Expences, and she herself, like Tantalus, was the only Person that wanted in the midst of Profusion: When he was informed that Part of it was eaten up by supernumerary Officers of no Use to her State, or Service to her Person: that more of it was swallowed by the exorbitant Bills of Stationers, Gardeners, Builders of all Kinds, Officers of the Kitchen and Houshold, and many others who claimed a sort of Prescription to Roguery, and would think themselves injured if they could not wrong the Crown, and like Pellicans pull out the Entrials of the Parent who fed and raised them. But how much more yet must he have been astonish’d, when he was told that the greatest Part of his Revenue was lavish’d in Pensions, and given away to those who were not only possess’d of most of the great Employments in England before, but had every Day new ones created for them, without regard to any other Merit or Qualifications, but knowing how to make a proper Application of two Monosyllables.
So wife a King could not avoid making the natural Observations which resulted from this unhappy Conduct: Undoubtedly he pitied the Condition of Princes, who in the midst of all the outward Shew and Pageantry of Greatness are often encompass’d, and I may almost say imprisoned, by the most ambitious and corrupt of Men; that they must see with such Mens Eyes, and hear with their Ears; that vertuous Men always are endeavoured to be kept from their Presence by such Miscreants, more than an infectious Distemper, knowing that Vice and Folly must fly before them, like Phantoms at the Approach of the Morning Sun. He knew well that as such Insects are raised out of corrupted Matter, by the Heat of a Summer’s Day; so they always fly and seek for new Shelter upon the Appearance of a Shower, or the Approach of the Evening Star.
In the prosperous Condition of their Affairs such a servile Crew, like the Scum of fermented Liquors, will rise uppermost, and appear always in sight, haunting their Courts, flattering their Persons, indulging their Vices, and promoting their Expences; whilst wise and good Men, conscious of their own Virtue, and Abilities, will expect to be sought after, tho’ are seldom enquired for, till the Remedy is too late, and ’tis out of their Power to help their Prince, and save their Country.
He easily perceived from what Sources such Mischiefs flowed upon the Queen and People. He saw that her Ministry by their Folly and Crimes had reduced themselves even to a Necessity of bribing Men to do their own Business, and paying them to serve themselves. Having first resolved to raise their own Fortunes upon the Publick Ruins, and to sacrifice their Prince’s and Country’s Happiness to their own Ambition and Covetousness, they were obliged to make use of the private Interests and Passions of Men, and endeavour to subdue every Spirit of Opposition, and every popular Tongue upon any Terms: They knew by Experience that a good Gift would soften an angry Heart, and a good Post convince a refractory Enemy or a Publick Spirit, who by such Means would roundly and readily come into Motions and Measures which before had appear’d monstrous and dangerous; some were paid for speaking, others for holding their Tongues, some for assisting, others for not opposing: Nor did they value the Expence, knowing a Bucket full of Water thrown into a Pump will fetch up all that is in the Well.
He then saw clearly the Reason why the Nation had never resented the most exorbitant Offences, viz. because the Ministry would not make a Rod for themselves, and punish Crimes which they were resolved to commit; and why any Method was never sincerely propos’d by them, or thought of to reduce the national Expences, which were the Harvest of the Managers, and the Mines out of which they dug their Wealth. And ’tis indeed but too true if there ever appear’d any faint or seeming Offer to ease the National Debts, it always terminated in a Jobb to enrich private Men, and encrease our Burthens.
He saw the Folly and Ridicule of heaping up Places and Pensions often upon Men, who must have starved if they were to have got but Five Pounds by their Merit. He was too well acquainted with Mankind not to know, that the Clamours and Importunities of such Wretches are endless and infinite; who never know what is fit to ask, when they have to do with those who do not know what is fit to give; That such Demands will multiply upon a Ministry faster than the Hydra’s Heads, and the gratifying One will produce an Hundred.
Men who are contented in their own Obscurity, when they see Worthlessness rewarded and bought up at a high Price, will put in their Claim too; and think themselves upon a level in Merit with those that have none, and so ruin themselves and Country in spight, if they are not gratified. When Pensions grow common, and are promiscuously given to those who have deserved them, and those who have not, the Demand and Application for them will grow universal: Every one will esteem it a sort of Contempt to him to be left out, and think himself as well intitled, as another who is not intitled at all. So that what is taken from the People’s Industry, and given for the People’s Protection will be squandred away to support Laziness, Prodigality and Vice, and the Bread of the Children will be thrown to Dogs.
He must have again condoled the unhappy Queen’s Circumstances, whose foolish and depraved Ministry in the latter Part of her Reign had servilely flatter’d and co-operated with a few Male and Female Parasites, who besieged her Person and poisoned her Ears, who were every Day lessening their Prince’s Interest with her People, and ungratefully sacrificing their Benefactor’s Honour, Happiness and Security to their own sordid Avarice and insatiable Pride, by engaging her in Alliances and Treaties unacceptable to her Subjects, and by keeping an open Market, and selling to the fairest Bidder all Offices and Employments which were not as before dispos’d of, and by that means perverting the National Justice, impairing the Publick Revenue, and adding greatly to her People’s burthens; for undoubtedly whoever is vile enough so to buy an Employment, will think it Lawful to make the best of it afterwards, and will stick at no Methods to do it, when he is sure of Protection from those who have received his Money.
All this must have made him reflect upon the Vicissitude of humane Affairs, and wonder at the Corruption and Degeneracy of a Nation, so famous through the World for being tenacious of their Liberties, and often defending them at the hazard of their Lives, and every thing else that was dear to them; that they should be in his time sunk so low, and become so contemptible, that not one single Briton should dare to open his Mouth, and but breathe his Resentments against these glaring and exorbitant Abuses.
He certainly look’d upon this as an Opportunity put by Heaven into his Hands, to acquire Reputation to himself and do good to Mankind, and formed a generous and steady Resolution to call up all our ancient Virtue, and restore so great a People to themselves. Almighty God cannot open a larger or nobler Scene to a truly Great Man for the Exercise of his Virtues, than to set him at the Head of a corrupted People, that he may have the Honour of restoring and reforming them, which is a Glory beyond all the gaudy Triumphs of fabulous and imaginary Heroes.
But every honest Man ought to give his Help too, to this great Work, and to assist our Illustrious Benefactor in his Generous Design, and first shew our Gratitude to him by endeavouring to lighten his Crown and make it sit easy upon his Head; which can be only done by supporting his Dignity in the Manner which will most endear him to his People.
As the Parliament has given him a large and most noble Revenue, so it cannot be doubted from their known Loyalty but they will do every Thing in their Power to make it effectual to him, and render their own Gifts compleat; that he may receive what his People pay, and they have the Pleasure to see that they are contributing to the Honour and Splendor of the Crown, and not to the enriching of some of the worst Men amongst them, as has been the Case in former Reigns.
Indeed this Distemper by long Habit seems to be grown so inveterate, and so many private Interests are concerned in preventing the Remedy, that it is become a Work equal to the Legislative Power. Besides, the Royal Authority ought always to be screen’d from the Load of Envy and Anger, which will always attend a Reformation of this Kind. As there are great Numbers whose Interest will be affected by it, and their darling Gain be at an End, so those that undertake it must expect all the Resentments which can be suggested by Rage and Disappointment.
Nor can this Regulation be expected from the Favourites of Princes and the Followers of their Courts and Fortunes: It would be Cruelty as well as Folly to hope for such Assistance. Interest and Self-love will stand in the Way, and they must hurt themselves to serve the Publick, and lessen their own Income to encrease their Master’s: But the Body of a grateful People can have no Interest but in their Prince’s Felicity, nor can they give a greater Instance of their Affection and Duty to him, than to rescue his Person and Revenue out of Jaws which would devour them both, if ever that should happen to be the Case; nor can a Parliament of England do a more acceptable Action, or better recommend themselves to their Principals, against a succeeding Election.
At present, I thank God, we have nothing to fear from our industrious, publick-spirited and upright Ministry; but considering the usual Jumble and Rotation of Factions in this Kingdom, who knows how long we may be bless’d with them? Therefore we have Reason to hope from the known Justice and Wisdom of our Representatives, that an effectual Method will be found out to hinder us from relapsing into the Calamities before complained of, and which have proved so fatal to both Prince and People.
I am sufficiently sensible of my own Inability to propose a proper Remedy for these Evils, and know well that there are many others more equal to the Undertaking; which they have hitherto neglected either from Despair of the Cure, or worse Reasons; but I have sometimes known a Patient given over by a famed Physician, and cured by an Empirick.
It is one Degree of public Virtue not to despair of the public Happiness. The Romans, the best Judges of Merit, received honourably a Run-a-way General, quia non desperavit de republica: Many a State has been destroyed by weak and worthless Instruments, and why may not one be saved by them? A Flock of Geese once saved the Capitol by their cackling. Therefore encouraged by these Reasons and Examples, I offer to the Consideration of my Representatives,
First, That a Commission be established by the Legislature, who shall be empowered to enquire by Oath into the Abuses of Collecting and Managing every Branch of the Publick Revenue, as well as of the civil List; to examine into the supernumerary and useless Offices, as well as exorbitant Salaries and extorted Fees; to look into the Bills of the lower Officers of the Houshold, of the Builders, Stationers, Gardeners, with all the ravenous Crew; to search into the Pensions and the pretences for granting them, and indeed into every Part of the Expence of the Civil List except his Majesty’s Privy Purse, and lay this Enquiry before the Parliament in the succeeding Sessions, and under what Heads they conceive there may be a Regulation of the Expence.
Secondly, That it be made High Treason for any Person to pay, or any Member of Parliament to receive, in trust or otherwise, any Pension, Sum of Money or other Gratuity from the Crown, unless it be entered in a publick Office, with the Reasons for giving or granting it, to which Office every one may have Admittance, and that all present Pensions be resumed.
Such a Proceeding would be worthy of an English Parliament, worthy the Respect they owe to their King, and giving him a substantial and truly Royal Income to himself, instead of making him a Nominal Trustee to receive his Revenue only for the use of others. This would be doing it in the most acceptable and grateful Method, by taking the Odium to themselves, and leaving the whole Benefit to their Prince. This must be also most engaging to his Virtuous Ministry, who will have the Joy and Transport of seeing and sharing in a proper Degree his Grandeur and Magnificence, without the uneasy Task of their Predecessors, (viz) of making new and ungrateful Demands upon an exhausted People. It must be an unspeakable Satisfaction to them too, to be freed from the daily and restless Importunities of clamorous Pretenders to Pensions, by having an Answer always ready in their Mouths, which must silence every impertinent and unreasonable Demand.
It cannot therefore be questioned but Persons of their Sagacity and tender Sense of Virtue, must rejoice and heartily concur in a Design so glorious to his Majesty, advantageous to his People, and conducive to their own Honour and Quiet, and will undoubtedly give all private and prudent Assistance to it in their Power. What a Pleasure must it be to them to see, during their Administration, their Country eased of its heavy Burthens; and as it were, relieved from the Jaws of Death, and become again a flourishing and most Potent Kingdom! All who had the Honour to know them before they were worthily advanced to their present Greatness, have heard them frequently exert their known Eloquence upon this Subject, and have Reason to hope, indeed I may say expect, that they will now make good their repeated Promises.
As to myself, who own many Obligations to their Goodness, as well upon the Publick Account, as for a very late Favour personally intended me, I shall take every Opportunity of acknowledging my Gratitude; and, being sensible I can no way make myself so acceptable to them, as by endeavouring to serve my Country, intend to continue in the same Method, and hope, in due time, to lay before them, what Sums may be saved in the Collection of the Publick Revenues, as well as in the Expence.
I believe it may be easily made out, that the Management of the Revenues alone in the late Reign, cost the People more than the whole Produce amounted to in Queen Elizabeth’s Time. And in this, I do not include the immense Advantages then got by indirect Means, in all the Offices, and particularly in the Navy, which cost the Kingdom many times as much as the Officers could get to themselves, not only by greatly enhancing the Price of all Stores and Provisions, but in discontenting the Seamen, and driving them into Foreign Service, without which it’s thought our present Enemies could not have appeared upon the Seas.
At present I shall put them in Mind only of the different Management of the Directors of two of the City Companies, and the late Directors for the Publick.
As I do not pretend to be exact in the Computation aforesaid, so I can be much less so in the supposed Profits of the Exchequer Offices, for obvious Reasons; and therefore I can only estimate them at the reputed Values, in which I am persuaded I do not exceed the Truth.
I thing it will not be denied, notwithstanding this great difference in the Expence, that the Receipts and Payments are greater in the Bank than in the Exchequer; nay ’tis remarkable that most of the Publick Payments are now made at the Bank, there being an Officer from thence constantly attending the Exchequer, ready to give Bank Bills to all who have Demands of Money. So that many of the Offices there are now become Sine-cures, as others of them were before.
Before I conclude, I think myself obliged to do all Right to the late Officers of the Exchequer; and as I have without reserve censured their Errors, so I ought equally to applaud their Vertues, and to own that the Revenue which passed through their Hands was really and in truth manag’d by Under-Clerks, at less Expence than even in the Bank itself; insomuch, as I am told, the great Accounts of the Army, which amounted to so many Millions, as well as the Customs, &c. were passed and checqued only by Deputy Clerks, with small Salaries in the Auditors of the Imprests Offices? nay, it’s said the Frugality was then so great, that the vast Sums gained during the last War by the returning of the Publick Money abroad were not accounted for at all; to which happy Parsimony we owe the Discoveries of many of the brightest Genius’s of the Age, who in all Appearance might have been otherwise buried in Obscurity, and so lost to the World for want of proper Opportunities to exert their great Talents.
Haud facile emergunt quorum virtutibus obstat
Res augusta Domi.